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March 14, 2014

Investigation Re-Opens In Sheikh Hamdan Horse Switching

(Left) HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum rode Marmoog under his old name, Prince de la Sabliere in 2012; in 2013 Sheikh Hamdam rode on a differently-marked horse also identified as Marmoog. Cidinha Franzão photos.

Allegations that Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum rode a “ringer” on the winning United Arab Emirates team at the 2012 Longines World Endurance Championships at Euston Park, Great Britain, are being re-investigated.

The Fédération Equestre Internationale has passed picture evidence provided by London’s The Daily Telegraph to the FEI’s Equine Community Integrity Unit after rumors about the true identity of Sheikh Hamdan’s Euston mount “Marmoog” resurfaced. 

The allegation comes just two weeks after the UAE—whose riders will attempt to defend their world team title in August—was announced as a sponsor of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France) endurance through Sheikh Mohammed’s Meydan corporation.

There will also be awkward questions for the FEI about the fallibility of its horse identity procedures after two markedly different horses passed official veterinary checks at a FEI 160-km qualifier in Italy and at Euston using the same identity.

FEI officials admitted this week that they'd heard rumours about Marmoog’s identity shortly after Euston but that the ECIU concluded “available evidence was not considered sufficient for further action.” 

But the FEI has now viewed photographs, some of which are available on the rides’ own websites, of two different chestnuts and last Friday brought them “to the attention of the ECIU for independent investigation.” 

The “real” Marmoog was purchased from France over the winter of 2011-2012 and re-registered in April 2012 with the Maktoums’ Nad Al Sheba stables under his original name, Prince de la Sabliere. He partnered Sheikh Hamdan at the Endurance “Lifestyle” ride in Numana June 2012. That horse has no white markings apart from a thin stripe down his head and a white mark on his muzzle, similar to pictures of the “real” Prince competing in France with his previous owners, the Courtial family. 

FEI records show his name was changed to Marmoog on August 7, 2012, the day nominated entries closed for the world championship. The Marmoog started there by Sheikh Hamdan has a broad blaze and a white stocking on his nearside hind. He was eliminated at the third vet gate and so was one of the UAE’s two discard scores.

A FEI spokesman said the horse’s identity was verified before it was admitted to the FEI stables at Euston, and paperwork was “all in order.”

Asked how two visibly different horses could share an identity, the FEI stressed that national federations were responsible for issuing passports and name changes. Name changes are recorded on the FEI database, but only the current name is displayed in the horse’s performance archive.

The spokesman added: “As with any case, if new and usable evidence is forthcoming, the case would be re-opened, and the ECIU would further investigate the matter. As in all investigations, the FEI will follow due process, including taking a case to the FEI Tribunal where appropriate.”

As of Feb. 16, Marmoog's name had been changed once again to JSAS, according to FEI records.

Sheikh Hamdan is the Crown Prince of Dubai and will succeed his father, Sheikh Mohammed, as the ruler. Dubai has been at the center of doping and injuries scandals in endurance in the last year. 

The Daily Telegraph discovered that Marmoog had a double nearly two weeks ago, after receiving an anonymous tip-off and viewing numerous photographs and TV footage. But publication was delayed while attempts were made to contact Sheikh Hamdan through his head office and other representatives, in order to invite a response. Public relations companies who represent Godolphin and Princess Haya, FEI president and stepmother of Sheikh Hamdan, said they “did not know” who represented Hamdan. Darley, who manage Sheikh Hamdan’s racing interests, advised they could only help if the Telegraph’s enquiry related to Thoroughbred racing.

The ECIU has been serviced by U.K. intelligence company Quest since 2010. Ironically, Quest only recently completed investigations into equine staff practices following last year’s Godolphin race horse steroids scandal and drugs raids by U.K. government agencies, for which Sheikh Mohammed was Quest’s client. Sheikh Mohammed was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Euston Park was organized by a Maktoum company, Janah Management. Janah was last month replaced as Dubai rides organizer by Meydan, in an internal staffing shake-up following the Quest report. Numana was co-organized as part of a regional festival to promote trade links with the UAE, and the CEI officials included a large number of UAE personnel.

Want to catch up on issues facing the endurance world? Read about the FEI plan to clean up the sport and the  FEI Endurance Conference that followed. And check out the controversial video that prompted the FEI to issue a yellow card to Sheik Mohommad bin Mubarak.  

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